Charlotte, and her award-winning Chelsea Flower Show garden, has recently been featured in a German news article titled “Pure Nature”. The article, from ‘Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 18 June 2017’, is translated below:
“I like it when gardens feel like they’re supposed to be that way. Authentic and responsive.” Says Charlotte Harris. Those are the gardens she hopes to create. Her role models: Tom Stuart Smith, who she worked for, and Dan Pearson. “Their gardens speak of the place, the location they’re in.” That’s what makes them coherent. Their influence in Harris’ own work is easy to recognise. The Londoner designs with clarity and simplicity, and her planting is naturalistic with a great eye for detail and wide plant knowledge. She shows an appreciation for the imaginative use of materials. And for the notion that a garden doesn’t reveal everything at once, but rather develops and reveals new views over time.
Harris first studied history. When she was in her mid twenties, her grandmother and both her parents died within a year and for a long time she repressed her pain, grief and depression, until she finally learned to process these emotions in her own garden at home. Gardening became more and more important in her life until she finally turned it into her profession.
For Harris it was a natural progression, driven by her own personal passion for what a garden can empower, for wild places, for plants. A garden is all about feelings, emotional reactions, a place to forget oneself. For her, it’s a place where she can lose herself: “Whether I work in it or just sit and think and reflect. A garden can free you from the constraints of everyday life.”
She finds inspiration in music, in dance (she sometimes works as a DJ), but also in architecture. She has designed and planted various gardens in London, to start with in collaboration with big industry names. As well as working for Tom Stuart-Smith, in 2014 she worked on Luciano Guibbilei’s “Best in Show” winning garden at the Chelsea Flower Show. In 2016 she supported fellow designer Hugo Bugg, and in 2017 she finally completed her masterpiece: her very own show garden at Chelsea for which she was awarded a gold medal. Canadian pines full of character (from a german tree nursery), define the garden. White woodland flowers and ferns play around moss covered rocks. Red columbine and forest phlox, iris and lilies turn the wilderness under those trees, including the carefully placed pine cones and needles, into a garden. Within it, minimal, restrained paths of granite gravel, with a boardwalk and a small Pavilion made from charred wood. It is a garden where every detail is right and that makes you feel welcome.
Charlotte Harris loves big, wild places. “I also go to the Outer Hebrides in December. These kind of places make us reflect upon our place within them.” She has just opened a joint practice with Hugo Bugg. Their next big project is wild garden estate in the Scottish Highlands.